Facts of Lice

Understanding the problem helps bring about solutions.
What are head lice?

Head lice are tiny six-legged blood-sucking parasites. Each leg is equipped with a claw, enabling the lice to grasp onto the shaft of the child’s hair. They can vary in color from grayish white to reddish brown. Head lice, like chameleons, have the ability to adapt to their environment.

The female louse lays her eggs by gluing them to your hair shafts. She will produce approximately 200 eggs in her lifetime. Eggs, or nits as they’re commonly called, generally hatch in 7 to 10 days. Once hatched, they have a life expectancy of approximately 30 days.

Lice are wingless and cannot jump or fly. They can, however, move with amazing speeds.

They depend on human blood for survival. A louse separated from its human host will rarely survive more than 24 hours.

Where do they come from?

No one knows for sure. Evidence of lice existence has been documented as far back as ancient times.

How do we get them?

In most all cases lice are transmitted from one human host to another, brought about mainly as a result of head-to-head contact.

Why me?

Certain people just seem to attract lice. Head lice are always on the lookout for a favorable environment.

There are many factors that draw head lice to one individual over another. Blood type and Rh factor are among them.

Are children the only ones who get head lice?

While it’s more commonly spread among children, parents and other adults are not immune.

When hair has contact with another’s hair (and it will), if that person has lice and you are a favorable environment, you take the risk of exposing yourself to an uninvited houseguest.

Isn’t it a sign of being dirty?

Head lice actually prefer a clean head of hair. Lice, however, are not prejudicial. A louse’s only concern is for its own survival. To accomplish this, the louse needs to feed and is always looking for the most convenient means of doing so.

Will it help if I wash my child’s hair daily?

This is nice in theory but wrong in actuality. Since nits are glued to the hair, all the brushing and washing on earth won’t change that fact. The eggs are coated with a fixative substance, whichliterally cements them to the hair shaft. They are blood-sucking parasites with crab-like claws. They can attach themselves to your hair and will hang on for dear life.

What about putting lots of gel on the child’s hair?

While we hear this question a lot, we strongly discourage it. It does nothing to prevent head lice. It’s far simpler to take a few extra minutes to brush the hair and pull it back, thus closing the bridge that invites a louse over.

How do I know for sure that my child has head lice?

The most obvious way is the usual itchy scalp so commonly, but not always, found in head lice cases. The only way to confirm your suspicions, however, is by a thorough examination of your child’s hair. Making head lice exams a part of your regular routine will allow you to identify the problem at its onset and thus prevent head lice from taking over your family, your home and your life.

What if I find head lice?

f you do find head lice on your child’s head, take care of the problem right away. Each day wasted is an increased opportunity for reproduction, not to mention the additional chances of spreading to others.
How you treat the problem is entirely up to you. There are a lot of products on the market but remember, many of these are pesticides. If you feel you must use them, do so sparingly, and be careful to follow all directions. Whether you choose a pesticidal shampoo product or go with one of the newer non-toxic products, it is important to understand that 100% removal cannot occur without hours of painstakingly picking all of the nits out.

Thankfully, many new products have been developed, helping to ease your burden. Among this new generation of lice combs is the Terminator comb. Its patented design helps parents eliminate some 85% of their child’s lice and nits.

Another product that continues to draw attention is the Robi Comb. Be careful, however, that while the Robi Comb has proven to be helpful in eliminating live lice (particularly adults), it does little, if anything, to rid the nits.

If the thought of all this is making you crazy, as is true with DeLice Fairy, there are several other companies offering nit removal services. While in most cases a cost will occur, the end result is often having it done right the first time, in less time and at a substantial savings compared to the parents’ failed attempts to end their problem. If you are fortunate enough to have nit removal services in your area, don’t hesitate to ask them questions.

  • How long have you been providing this service?

  • Where did you receive your training?

  • What method of nit removal do you use?

  • Is your treatment process safe?

  • What is your success rate?

  • Do you provide followup?

  • What guarantees, if any, do you offer?

  • What about other family members? Do you check them as well, and if so, is there a charge?

Be wary of any service that claims to have a 100% success rate, and remember a truly efficient service will also examine the heads of all members of the family.

One last point and probably the most important of all, be careful to notify anyone that might have come in contact with your child.

How bad is the problem?

Head lice are one of the number one reasons for absenteeism in schools across the country.

It’s impossible to know exactly how many cases of head lice there are each year. Statistics derived from product sales, however, suggest that the U.S. alone sees over 12 million cases of head lice each year. It is estimated that parents spend 150 million dollars annually trying to be rid of this problem. The cost is far greater when you factor in the missed wages that often occur as a result of parents being forced to miss work while tending to their child’s head lice problem.

How bad is the problem? Bad enough to wreak havoc around the world! Bad enough to pit parents against school administrators. Bad enough for children to accept the blame and shame for a problem in which they have little control over.

Why has this become such a problem?

Head lice are insects and like other insects, repeated exposure to chemicals over an extended period of time has allowed the lice to build up a resistance to the very products once used to kill them.

Another important factor is the failure to follow through with precautionary measures. While mega cleaning is not necessary, and the environment does not play as important a role as it was once thought, you must still exercise common-sense cleaning. The best advice is to think of your life in a 24-hour window. Consider what items you had contact with in that time period and keep your focus on those items only. Remember, lice DO NOT live in your home. The problem is on your head and the heads of those around you. Additionally is the risk that parents just aren’t getting it all out. If nits are left on the hair to hatch, the cycle will start all over again. Equally important is the need to recognize and remove nymphs. Often as tiny as the tip of a very sharp pencil, nymphs grow to start families of their own. Finally, don’t forget it is a contact issue.
While resistance issues are considered a large factor, they are far from being totally responsible. As the pharmaceutical companies are quick to point out, the directions on the package are there for a reason. Unless you are willing to read and follow them in their entirety, you can’t expect the products to end the problem.

Keep in mind that head lice need blood to survive so rather than stripping your sheets daily, running the vacuum three times a day and bagging every toy your child owns, your time is better spent checking and combing his or her head and communicating with those around you. Nit removal is a tedious enough job without overburdening yourself with unnecessary cleaning techniques. You need not drive yourself to a state of hysteria or have a nervous breakdown in an attempt to regain a normal lifestyle. One final note on all of this is to keep in mind how this affects your child. We don’t want children to feel that it’s their fault or to feel ashamed because they have head lice. It happens! We must stress that to the children as well. Deal with it, get over it, and go on with our lives!

Is there any danger?

For the most part, head lice themselves are an irritating problem. While in some cases their saliva can produce an allergic reaction among certain individuals, these reactions are usually mild compared to the risk involved with many shampoo products.

Products containing Lindane have caused the greatest concerns. Exposure to the neurotoxic product has been linked to seizures, developmental disabilities, hormone disruption and worse yet–cancer. Thanks to the EPA, one can no longer use Lindane as a source of treatment when dealing with our animals or our environment; as it is considered too dangerous an option. The only use, and I repeat, the ONLY use, still allowed, is as an ingredient in shampoos and lotions for the treatment of head lice and scabies. Thankfully, many states, including California, New York, and Michigan have taken this decision out of the FDA’s hands and banned the pharmaceutical use within their states.

Adding to the dangers is the fact that many parents fail to follow proper directions, leaving the shampoo on longer than recommended or re-treating too quickly. Improper treatment is one of the biggest causes of re-infestation and among the greatest dangers to your child. Another such danger, and one clearly marked on the shampoo packaging, is the danger in treating a child under the age of 3 or the use of such products by pregnant individuals.

What is being done about it?

There are many ways in which to help and certainly organizations such as DeLice Fairy are always looking for those willing to lend a hand.
Consider starting a small group in your area. You might contact our organization directly: DeLice Fairy, LLC. at (703) 346-0141 or (703) 675-3272 and ask if we are aware of any such organization close to you, or how you might be able to help bring services to your area.

How can i help?

There are many ways in which to help and certainly organizations such as DeLice Fairy are always looking for those willing to lend a hand.
Consider starting a small group in your area. You might contact our organization directly: DeLice Fairy, LLC. at (703) 346-0141 or (703) 675-3272 and ask if we are aware of any such organization close to you, or how you might be able to help bring services to your area.

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In Palm Beach County, the Head Lice Task Force Team believes that, “If every parent of a school aged child had a good lice comb and used it (for two to five minutes on wet hair) once or twice a week, lice would not be a problem because we as parents would find it at first onset, before it had a chance to escalate or spread to others.” It’s a great policy; now we just need more schools incorporating it and more parents acting on it.
Only through improved No Nit Policies, as well as parents and school administrators working together, can we hope to bring about a positive end to this ever-increasing problem. Remember you’re in a potentially “no-win” situation! If you rid your child of head lice, only to return the child to an environment that is not being checked, you’ll be pretty much guaranteed that you’ll be treating it again and again!!
Encourage regular screenings not only in your child’s classroom, but for the entire school as well.
Schools should consider scheduling head checks at the start of school, after the Christmas holiday, and before summer break. For parents, the first week of August is Head Check Awareness Week. What better time than this for parents to add head checks to their “To-Do List?” Early detection is the real key to minimizing transmission among our students.

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To further emphasize how severe a neglected problem can get, we like to share one such story with you. Several years ago, one of our local middle-school nurses called about a seventh-grader that was battling a head lice problem. The school was well aware of it, but since the child had already missed so much school, she was allowed to continue in class. What the school wasn’t aware of was the real severity of the situation! Our technician, ill-prepared for how severe the problem was, quickly had to call for reinforcements. The child’s head was so infested that it took two technicians four hours each and even then they didn’t get it all. Because her case of head lice had been neglected for so long, it was difficult to work on her tender head. She suffered with multiple open wounds that had blood and puss oozing from her scalp. Her hair was literally matted to her scalp. They worked diligently, each taking a side of the child’s head. Working as gently as possible they attempted to remove as much as possible. They had to soften the hair before they could even start and had to have the child rewash her hair three more times during the treatment process. Hundreds of live lice literally ran from this child’s hair and there was little free space for head lice to lay their eggs on. Not needing to work for their food, the lice were literally basking in the blood. Finally the technicians admitted they had done all they could, to do more required medical help. After a conference call with Terri Meinking and a local pediatrician, a follow-up course of action was determined that included antibiotics to heal the sores and kill off any remaining lice. It also became a child-neglect issue since the situation should never have gotten that out of hand. Mom, knowing the child had head lice, felt that at 12 years of age she was old enough to tend to her own head. It also became a serious school problem. Upon notification to her school nurse, they did a head by head check of the entire seventh grade and sent 86 children home in one day!! We dropped out of the loop before hearing how many more children they found in the remaining grade levels. On a positive note, it was amazing how much better her hair looked when our technicians completed their job, an appearance change that had a positive impact on her self esteem as well.

While I know this description has probably made your stomach turn, it’s important to understand how quickly a neglected case of head lice can become a very severe problem. The most important factor that can’t be stressed enough is that having head lice should be no more embarrassing than having chicken pox! As parents, we’re sorry for those to whom we unknowingly spread it, but it happens.
We need to stop the blame game. That means, don’t look to blame and don’t stress over being blamed. Again, lice happens! The only fault you should accept is for failing to act in the first place. We always tell our families, “It’s not just about where you got head lice, but who you gave head lice to as well!” Get over the blame game, accept that it happens, and deal with the problem.

Should you determine that your child has head lice, treat it! Keep the child away from playmates during this time period and notify anyone that has been in contact with your child! Battling head lice is an annoying inconvenience for everyone involved, especially for the individual afflicted with the problem. You certainly hope your child avoids contact, but if your child doesn’t, then you deal with it!! Finally, if you are among the unfortunate millions to receive a home visit from this uninvited guest, speak up! Be a friend and tell your friends to have their hair checked!! Notify the school, scouts, church, daycare and anyone else your child has had contact with. Keep in mind that symptoms usually don’t develop for 7 to 10 days after infestation. Don’t let it escalate or continue to spread before you begin proactive measures. Understand that telling others is a necessary process to ensure that your child does not get it back again. Your child came in contact with head lice somewhere and will surely spread it to others by the time you realize your child even has it. Treating your children and then returning them to a possible lice-infested environment would only be asking for trouble. Communicate with your friends and help put an end to this never-ending cycle.

In an effort to better document cases and localities your help is also asked in reporting these cases to our facility. We work with several universities, allowing us to not only be in the forefront of newer information, but also to provide them with the necessary data to help determine more accurate information.

To Report Your Case

Are you uncertain of whether you have head lice or not? Send us your samples. We will examine them under the microscope and let you know if your concerns are head lice related or not. While we don’t profess to know it all, we do know head lice. Many an unnecessary treatment could have been avoided if the time had been taken to confirm head lice before treating. When sending samples, please either place them in a ziploc bag, or use scotch tape to affix them under the tape and onto a white sheet of paper. Be sure to include your name, telephone number, and location, along with the name, sex, and age of the individual from whom the samples were removed. Please mail the envelope to DeLice Fairy at 165 Maple Ave E, Vienna, Virginia 22180 near Tysons Corner mall. We will generally call back the same day we receive them. Head lice are never pleasant. Finally there is real help that you can count on! “Head Lice Happens! Get over it and go on!” Now with DeLice Fairy., getting rid of head lice has never been easier!

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